ITA Conference 2012 – the Good, the Could-Be-Better, and the Sad

The conference was barely over, and several of my colleagues, who had been industriously taking notes, or just listening attentively, already published their report on their blogs (See links at the end.)

And here am I, about ten days later, struggling with my comments. 

Please note that this post is only about individual presentations; I’m not talking about all the other aspects of the conference, which were thoroughly enjoyable and commendable: The huge choice of lectures; the convivial atmosphere; meeting with friends; the smooth, efficient organization; the selection of chocolate cake; and the breathtaking view of Jerusalem-at-night through the bedroom window!

Reporting on other people’s presentations, whether you yourself gave a presentation or not, is tricky. You want to give your readers information, but you don’t want to offend colleagues (“Honey, stick to what you do best. Which is not public speaking”) nor sound insincere (“Everything was fabulous! All the speakers were brilliant!”)

Being rather critical by nature (over-critical, perhaps?), I am sometimes advised to keep my harsh comments to myself. But reporting in a very neutral tone seems pointless: the reader can’t figure out whether the lecture was interesting or not, well-delivered or not. Some bloggers try to avoid the problem by explicitly saying good things about a session they enjoyed, while keeping a strictly matter-of-fact, minimalist style when reporting on a less-successful session. This way, it’s up to the reader to read between the lines and draw conclusions.

Obviously, impressions are subjective. Some like opera, some find it a bore. Some are happy to learn a thing or two about pronouns, others might say, “been there, done that.”  But the point of heartfelt criticism, especially if given in a constructive way, is to encourage speakers to improve.

The good, at this conference, included  the usual: Yael Sela Shapiro, Inbal Sagiv Nakdimon, Inga Michaeli, Prof. Miriam Schlesinger, and others whom I missed, either due to not being able to be in two places at once, or due to the nasty sore throat & common cold that attacked me. Personally, I also enjoyed Fabienne Bergmann’s talk and presentation, about the challenge of translating David Ben Gurion’s letters and diaries from Hebrew into French.

Two other good talks which I didn’t attend in person but read the text and/or the ppt presentations thereof, were that of first-timer Ofra Hod, who spoke about translations made within the Ben Yehuda project; and Tzviya Levin & Stephen Rifkind’s session “Pricing Translations for Beginners”, which contains invaluable guidelines and tips.

The could-be-better – was Prof. Harai Golomb, who talked too much, in my opinion. I’d have loved to hear less theorizing and more music. Officially, his performance was called “Translating Opera: O Mozart, thou art translated”, accompanied by singers and music. Sorry to say I lost patience before the singing and music began. I am told it was wonderful.

Also in this category was guest Ana Iaria, with her talk “Using the Internet as your office” or “Translators on the go”. I felt she had very little to say, and none of it was new to me. I don’t know what I expected; perhaps the talk was an eye-opener to other listeners.

Third on this “so-so” list of mine is Dov Gordon, who spoke about “How to be noticed, be valued and be hired by the clients you want most.” He spoke well, but gave me little practical advice. However, I suspect I was not his ideal target audience; there may have been many others in the audience who gained more than I did from his talk.

The sad – I’d rather not give this person’s name. Objective conditions seemed to conspire against her: She spoke right after an illustrious, captivating speaker; the room was dark and warm, even stuffy. What she needed was bright lights to wake up her audience, and an attractive, coherent visual presentation to support and illustrate her points. Instead, she simply read from her notes, in a soft, somewhat monotonous voice, and it was rather difficult to follow what she was talking about and what her main point was. Which is a pity, and our loss, because – judging by the synopsis in the program – the subject matter was quite interesting.

Shortly before the 2011 ITA conference, I wrote a blog post about how to go about preparing a lecture/presentation. Needless to say, it is just as relevant today.

Links to other translators’ reports and presentations:

Yael Sela Shapiro's post and presentation: (Post: Heb., presentation: Eng) 


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